Wednesday, March 28, 2012

3 Vacation Rental Cooking Tips

Telluride, Colorado, kitchen.

One of the biggest advantages to staying in vacation rentals is having a kitchen. Some offer gourmet kitchens with the latest high-end appliances and utensils. But at the very least, you'll have a stove, refrigerator, microwave and a grill, so you'll be able to cook your own meals instead of eating out all the time. Here are three tips for getting the most out of cooking in your kitchen.

Make a Plan

First, don't assume you're going to eat a lot different on vacation than you do at home. While local cuisine and the availability of certain foods will certainly play a part, you'll more than likely be drawn to the kinds of foods you normally enjoy. If your lunches generally consist of sandwiches and chips, then assume you'll eat in a similar fashion at your vacation rental. Having this mindset will allow you to branch out to new and interesting foods in a way that you'll enjoy. 

Before you leave on your trip, go online and scope out the grocery stores and farmers' markets in the area you're visiting. Become familiar with the kinds of fruits and vegetables available. Then create a grocery list that you'll use when you first arrive. Ask the property manager or owner if any shopping services are available. You might be able to have some of your groceries waiting for you when you arrive. Also, resist the temptation to buy too much when shopping. While you want enough food around to keep you from eating out every meal, you don't want spend a lot of money on groceries and then leave them behind. Be sure to ask what kind of appliances are available as well, and if there are any restrictions on grilling.

Bring Some Staples

Cabo kitchen.
Purchase some easy-to-pack staples before departing. Everyday spices will almost certainly be cheaper at home (though stay open to local spices if they're unique and fresh). If you know a recipe calls for flour, bring some in a baggie. The same goes for baking soda, sugar, chocolate and other staple ingredients.

Along with staple foods, bring along small specialty cooking utensils you know you'll need. A garlic press, an extra spatula, a pair of high-quality kitchen scissors are all excellent bring-along items. Resist the temptation to pack your food processor, however. You'd be better off packing a favorite kitchen knife or two and asking for help in the kitchen from your travel buddies.

Meal Planning

Once you've researched the food availability in the area you're traveling to, you'll have a great idea about what kind of meals you should plan. First, don't schedule yourself for a full day in the kitchen. Any recipes you make should be quick and easy. If you're traveling with a large or diverse group of people, now's not the time to get creative either. Try to come up with meals that will please everyone. Do include local produce, meats, fish and breads. There's nothing like going to Italy and enjoying some locally made prosciutto and cheeses. Ask if anyone in your group has special dietary needs or is trying to lose weight.

While you might be the main cook in the group (and you probably like it that way), try to share the work with others. Perhaps ask someone else to prepare a lunch, and another to take on a dinner. You'll feel less like the burden's all on you. And by all means, ask everyone to help in the clean up.

Lastly, stay flexible. While you want to have a plan going in, if a meal out a night or two makes your vacation more enjoyable, then by all means eat out. Remember, whether it's a lake vacation rental, a ski vacation rental, or a beautiful place in a charming neighborhood, you're on vacation and are supposed to have fun.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Casa Heidi--A Beautiful Retreat in the Heart of Romania's Carpathian Mountains

For today’s post, we’re featuring an article written by Dinu Mendrea, owner of the Casa Heidi vacation rental in Transylvania. Dinu is an accomplished photographer, writer, artist and host. Read more about Casa Heidi and the wonders of Transylvania from Dinu, a true expert on the region. 

I could (should) write about Transylvania's ethnically colorful history. Or I could elaborate on its well-preserved German (Saxon), medieval cities and villages, about some of their incredible fortified churches (part of which appear on UNESCO's World Heritage List), or about the organ concerts you can still enjoy in Brasov's spectacular Black Church. 

Of course, I could write about the impressive castles and palaces (Dracula's Castle for example being just 1 km away from Casa Heidi), all the museums, parks, National Parks, the original Bear Park. Or I could describe the great traditional restaurants tempting you with the area's German, Hungarian, Romanian and Jewish cuisine. Then there are the more recently created and highly affordable attractions such as paragliding, ATV and Jeep tours, horse riding, mountain biking, skiing, swimming, Spas with great massages and more. But I won't write about these.

Brasov, Old City Center, Transylvania, Romania
I prefer to emphasize THE most striking feature of this area and THE reason for which I decided to have this dream-vacation-house built here and not anywhere else. It's the breathtaking landscapes – and I will let my pictures speak. While you look at them, try to imagine the smell of hay meadows full of flowers mown by hand, the scent of endless fir tree forests, the sound of the mountain creeks, the chirps of crickets and the bleating of the sheep. The nostalgic farming scenes which we in the west remember only through fairy tales and movies are all still here, waiting to be experienced.

Dracula's Castle
Transylvania offers a special opportunity: to smoothly oscillate between 21st century leisure, comfort and the beauty of nature and life, as they used to be. The fact that the British "Guardian" newspaper considered Casa Heidi to be one of Europe's best 20 self-catering vacation homes was probably thanks to this combination. There is no guarantee that the next generation of travelers will still be able to feed their nostalgia in this part of Europe.

After an exhilarating day walking along the village's stunning hills, forests and rivers, filled with wild flowers, forest mushrooms and wild strawberries, enjoy sliding into the hot double Jacuzzi tub, up in villa's roof attic, still with a magnificent view of the imposing Carpathian peaks in front of your eyes. You are certain to enjoy the time of your life!

About Dinu: As a graduate of the art academy, a free lance photographer for the National Geographic magazine, I collected ideas, designs and objects from many parts of the world, bringing them all back to this cozy Transylvanian nest. Casa Heidi's website:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Find the Perfect Beach Experience on North Carolina's Topsail Island

If you're looking for a great, uncrowded beach experience, consider the Topsail Island communities of Surf City, Topsail Beach and North Topsail Beach. Tucked away off the beaten path, Topsail Island offers 26 miles of barrier island beach. We've recently added 20 Beach Place Realty North Carolina vacation rentals to Perfect Places.

It's a surfer's haven, and you can either join in or watch as they cruise the water looking for the perfect wave. Or, you can join the fishermen and cast a line of one of the piers. It's always a treat taking your fresh catch back to your vacation rental for a delicious meal.

After surfing, fishing or just enjoy endless hours of beach time, be sure to check out the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Beach. There are also the fascinating Missiles and More Museum, which displays items from the islands history as a secret missile launch site during World War II.

On the north end of the island is North Topsail Beach. In the middle is Surf City, and at the southern end is Topsail Beach.

The name of the island dates back to the era when Pirates like Blackbeard ruled the waves and hid their ships between the island and the mainland. Merchant ships eventually started looking for the pirates' topsails peeking over trees on the island.

If you're looking for a little shopping and other non-beach activities, you'll find shops and restaurants in Surf City and Topsail Beach. Wilmington, Jacksonville and USMC Camp Lejeune are just a short drive away.

Visiting Topsail Island is all about feeling your toes in the sand, the gentle breeze, and enjoying the refreshing waves. You'll have quite beaches and gorgeous sunrises and sunsets.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

3 Packing Tips for Vacation Rentals

While this may be the goal of any vacation,
you'll probably need to pack more
than just a bathing suit.
More and more people are staying in vacation rentals. One of the first questions they have is, "what do I need to bring?"  Here are packing tips you can use as you plan your stay in a vacation rental.

Make a Plan

This is a basic packing tip for travel, and it's one to keep in mind when for vacation rentals. But it has less to do with how you pack your suitcase and more to do with knowing how where you're going resembles what you're used to at home. 

First, find out as much about the area you're traveling to as possible. This will be fun, as you'll quickly become familiar with area attractions, restaurants, beaches, national parks, etc. You'll also become familiar with area grocery, department and drug stores. For example, you might be tempted to bring food for your vacation rental's kitchen when you first arrive. A little research might tell you that a 24-hour grocery store is right around the corner. Some parents like to pack over-the-counter medications for their kids, just in case. You can save that space and possibly unnecessary expense if you find your vacation rental is near a corner drug store. Conversely, you might find that neither is near your vacation rental. In which case, you might want to pack a few extra things so you have what you need upon your arrival.

Also, be sure to understand local customs and proper dress. For example, if you're planning a trip to Rome, you might want to make sure you have appropriate clothing for a trip to the Vatican. If you're planning a trip to India, you wouldn't want to offend anyone with western styles considered inappropriate in their culture.

All this information is easily obtainable either by doing a quick search on Google, or by asking the property manager or owner. 

Know What's Provided

Most vacation rentals provide soap and shampoo, much like a hotel, but there may be products you like to use. (Drawing from the first tip, you might want to go so far as to call the pharmacy or grocery store to see if they stock items you like to use.) 

Towels are also provided at vacation rentals, though daily maid service probably won't be. If you're near the beach or plan on trips to a lake, you might want to bring a couple of beach towels along. However, some vacation rentals will even provide these, so be sure to check with the owner or property manager. Most kitchens will be stocked with essential items: a roll of paper towels, coffee filters, garbage bags, etc. Depending on how long you stay, you may need to replenish these kinds of items.

When it comes to equipment needed for activities, you'll definitely want to speak with the owner or property manager. Many vacation rentals have equipment available for you to use, such as fishing poles, bicycles, tennis rackets, golf clubs, etc.

Know the Weather

If you're staying at a vacation rental, chances are you're going to be there for a week or more. It's a good idea to get a complete understanding of what the weather's like where you're going. You can put up with wearing your husband's sweatshirt on one cold night for a short weekend trip--but you probably won't want to wear it all week. Talk to the owner or property manager about weather and pack accordingly. Be sure to ask about variances in the weather--is it hot one time of day and cold another? Some travelers to some parts of Florida are surprised to find out that there's a daily rainstorm, usually in the afternoon. Should you bring and umbrella or buy one there?

Of course, you may decide not to pack heavy items such as jackets with the intent of buying them as souvenirs. Just remember to leave room in your suitcase for the return trip for any "day to day" items you buy on your trip. And should you find yourself with too much to bring back, consider shipping it back to yourself via UPS.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring Ski Vacation Alert! 5 to 7 FEET of New Snow in Tahoe/Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley's High Camp--a great way
to relax after a day of spring skiing.
The base is deep and set, bluebird days abound, and the temperatures are sure to rise. Spring is the favorite time to ski for many ski bums and mountain folk. And with 5 to 7 feet of new snow predicted for the Lake Tahoe/Squaw Valley region, you're sure to find great skiing -- and great ski vacation rentals -- at one of the world's best ski areas.

Squaw features several black diamond areas and is known among skiers for its steep slopes. Since it's spring and the days are longer, you'll be sure to enjoy the High Camp Lagoon and Spay for apr├Ęs-ski. There's a heated outdoor pool with waterfalls, four bars and restaurants on multi-level decks, lockers, showers and towel service. Now that's skiing.

There's a deep base at Mammoth and with a peak elevation of over 11,000 feet you can ski through June some years. You'll also find lots of sunshine as Mammoth averages 300 sunny days a year. After April 18, lifts run out of the higher elevation Main Lodge, open early and run through the early afternoon.

Whistler offers incredibly diverse terrain and outstanding accommodations. You'll find 5,000 vertical feet of skiing pleasure, 3 glaciers and 12 alpine bowls. In fact, glacier season runs from early June through late July. Since Whistler was the site of the winter Olympics in 2010, you'll be treated to first-class ski facilities.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Picture Perfect Vacation Rentals Around the World

View from Wengen, Switzerland, vacation rental
What's the first thing you do when you arrive in a vacation rental, hotel, motel or resort? Well, right after putting down your bags, you probably go to the nearest window and check out the view. While no one expects snow-peaked mountain or endless ocean panoramas every time they travel, there's still nothing like an incredible view to make your stay more enjoyable. Here are three picturesque locations with stunning views.

Wengen, Switzerland

Located at the base of the Eiger-Monch-Jungfrau mountain range. No cars have been allowed in the village for over 100 years, so you'll need to park in Lauterbrunnen and take a 15-minute train ride to get to this picturesque Alpine village (it sits at an altitude of almost 4,200 feet). Skiing's popular in the winter in Wengen, while the summer you can enjoy unforgettable hiking and mountain climbing in the summer. A Switzerland vacation rental is a great way to see this beautiful area. 

Eze, France

Eze, France, vacation rental. 
Incredible views of the Mediterranean and medieval charm make Eze one of the most popular spots on the French Riviera. It sits atop a cliff and near Nice. Besides soaking in the incredible views and romance of this magical place (it was one of Walt Disney's favorites), you can enjoy hiking, horseback riding, sailing and cultural and sporting events from April to December. Eze enjoys a year-round warm climate, as evidenced by an abundance of tropical vegetation such as bananas, dates, carob, and citrus trees. You'll have easy access to beaches as well. Check out this stunning Eze vacation rental

Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

Cesky Krumlov vacation rental
Founded around the year 1253, Cesky Krumlov is surrounded by rolling hills and sites along the Vltava River. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's famous for it's old town, which features cobblestone streets and 300 protected medieval buildings, a castle, and the second largest church in the Czech Republic. You'll find a dozen museums and galleries, beautiful castle gardens, as well as historic and modern theaters. Cesky Krumlov is a retreat for artists, writers and musicians. The 5-Petalled Rose Celebration turns Cesky Krumlov into a Renaissance-era town every year, with dances, concerts, theatrical performances, knights, noble men and women and more. It runs for 3 days in mid-June. Here's a large Czech vacation rental perfect for an extended trip to this beautiful area.

Friday, March 9, 2012

42 New Vacation Rental Properties on Tybee Island

We're excited to announce the addition of Sandy's By the Sea Shore Vacation Rentals on Tybee Island, Georgia, to Perfect Places. These are high-quality vacation rentals in a variety or price ranges. You'll find rentals of all sizes right on the beach and in other convenient locations. Whether you're traveling by yourself, as a couple, with your family or with lots of friends, you're sure to find a property you'll love.

Tybee Island is a barrier island located just 18 miles south of Savannah, making the "Hostess City of the South" an easy day trip.

The beaches are the big draw on Tybee Island. They've been popular with tourists since the 1800s and continue strong to this day. Sometimes called "Savannah's Beach," you'll find a wide, clean beach lapped by warm, gentle waves. The sand is great for making sandcastles, feels fantastic to walk on and, at low tide, is firm enough to bike on. There are three miles of uninterrupted public beach, and nearby salt marshes are teeming a diverse combination of birds and wildlife unique to Southeastern Georgia. You'll also find fishing piers and off shore and deep sea boat charters.

South Beach is next to Tybee Island's business district and near many restaurants, bars and shops. Because of this, South Beach also gets the most crowds. Mid Beach is a favorite local hangout, but is a bit further away from places to eat and shop. North Beach, located at the mouth of the Savannah River, is sheltered and is a great location for shelling, viewing dolphins, and watching ships travel in and out of the port of Savannah (on of the nation's busiest ports). Savannah River Beach is even more isolated and is great for seeing dolphins.

Once you’re done at the beach, head out to one of Tybee Island's great restaurants. There are over 25 to choose from, and plenty of fresh catch seafood to go around. Make sure you try fresh caught wild Georgia shrimp before you leave. Many restaurants and bars have live music and, best of all perhaps, you can take to your cocktail to the beach for a midnight walk in the moonlight.

There's also great shopping on Tybee Island. Talented local artists own unique shops and galleries where you can buy one of a kind gifts and home decor items.

No matter what your pleasure, you're sure to find it on Tybee Island.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Enter Our $250 Spring Break VISA® Gift Card Sweepstakes

Get ready for a great spring by entering the Perfect Places $250 Spring Break VISA® Gift Card Sweepstakes. Just Like us on Facebook to enter. 

You can use the Gift Card anywhere VISA® is accepted, so you can spend it just like cash on airline tickets, meals, entertainment, souvenirs, even to book your vacation rental.

The sweepstakes ends March 21, so don't delay--Like us on Facebook today!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Get Great Deals on Vacation Rentals in March

Whether you want beach time, mountain time or just a little relaxation time, Perfect Places has vacation rentals to suit your needs. Check out our March email for these great bargains and more:

Stay in a jewel of a vacation rental in Cabo san Lucas on the Baja California peninsula. If you're looking for cooler climes by the ocean, try Pacific Beach, Washington. You can enjoy the waves and an ancient northwest rain forest.

Looking for a little late season skiing? Then head to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. They got a ton of sno recently. Or, head the Great Smokies to kick back and relax on a big, private deck and enjoy the sights and sounds of a blossoming spring.

Whatever your vacation destination, we've got a property where you're going. Take a look at our March deals now and save.